By Tom Moses
The quest for the control of political power by political gladiators in the various political parties in Akwa-Ibom State on Saturday April 11, 2015 gubernatorial and House of Assembly elections has surely left very little to be desired.
The elections which had earlier appeared to have been well-planned and pruned of covert and overt dangers became awry just in no time.
Members of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the Accord Party (AP) and Labour Party (LP) appeared to have expected free and fair elections where the eventual winners would be ultimately embraced and celebrated even as they also appeared to have had a mindset to resist any attempt from any quarter that would oppose strict implementation of the Electoral Guidelines for the elections.
All the agents of the respective political parties and stakeholders therefore demanded that election materials including result sheets brought to their polling units must be inspected and their authenticity ascertained before the commencement of electioneering exercise so as to check fraud.
The reason for this position as canvassed by some of the governorship aspirants such as Obong Umana Umana, Bishop Samuel Akpan and Senator Helen Esuene stemmed from the fear of possible repeat of the allegations which trailed the presidential and Senate elections of March 28, 2015 where many Electoral Officers allegedly released results sheets or colluded with influential political elements in the state to commit electoral fraud in favour of their candidates.
Ostensibly irked by the ugly reports concerning the misdemeanour of the electoral officers, the Resident Electoral Commissioner-REC in the state, Barrister Austin Okojie summoned an extra-ordinary meeting with the Supervisory Presiding Officers (SPOs) and the Electoral Officers where they were warned against conducts that would bring the reputation of the commission to disdain.
They were warned not to take any of the commission’s election materials to the residence of politicians for any reason or they would be made to face ugly consequences.
Even the elders of the state led by a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Atu-Ekong Don Etiebet, paid a courtesy call on the REC on Thursday April 9, 2015 where they enjoined him to persuade his electoral officers against a repeat of the misconducts that shadowed the presidential and Senatorial elections.
To give credence to his promise, Okojie ensured that all the electoral materials delivered to the commission on Tuesday April 7, by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for the governorship and House of Assembly elections were distributed to the electoral officers before the full glare of the media, security agents, International Observers and the respective political parties’ agents.
Unfortunately, many of the Electoral Officers did not appear to have complied with the directive of the REC as many of them did not go to polling units with the complete election materials they received just as some of them presented results sheets that were not the certified copies the REC handed over to them.
The situation was not different in Uyo, the state’s capital and perhaps, worse as many of the polling units were not provided with election materials at all, hence, elections did not take place in many units in the area.
Equally, in many polling units in Onna Local Government Area especially, the strong holds of Bishop Samuel Akpan of Accord Party, result sheets and other materials were said to have been hijacked and elections did not hold in those units.
However, in Etinan, the local government of Obong Paul Ekpo, chairman of the state chapter of the PDP, elections went on smoothly as accreditation commenced early as scheduled just as voting commenced promptly and before 3 p.m. everything had been concluded.
It was the same story in many polling units in Onna, the local government area of the PDP governorship candidate, Udom Emmanuel.
Udom even commended INEC for improving upon its facilities thereby making the elections smooth and classical.
In Ikot-Ekpene Senatorial District where Governor Godswill Akpabio holds sway, elections were said to be smooth and orderly in many of the polling units.
However, it was not the same in many other areas and disturbed by the negative reports reaching him, the REC immediately held a briefing with the media where he lamented over the anomalies in the elections in many polling units.
“So far, we have found out that violence took place in Mkpat Enin Local Government Area Ward 11, Unit 3. A Corper’s head was broken and his APO’s leg was also broken.
But the disappointment experienced by the electorate in Uyo Senatorial District and some parts of Eket culminated in public disorder in Uyo on Sunday April 12 while the collation of election results was going on, causing the collation officers to temporarily abandon duty for a few hours until the security operatives came back to assure them that the protesting youths had been chased away and normalcy restored.
One of the speakers of the youths, Uduak Effiong vowed that they would do everything possible to resist the imposition of a governor and any other political officer on them.
Speaking on the Planet FM, Uyo, Obong Umana said the APC would accept nothing other than the cancellation of the election alleging that everything about the election was fraudulent and aided by INEC staff.
Bishop Sam Akpan is also peeved up by the biased conduct of the INEC staff and demanded that the INEC Boss, Professor Atahiru Jega should do something urgent about it to restore unity to the commission.
The Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP) in the state in a media briefing presided over by its Chairman, Martins Inyang also called for cancellation of the elections.
Speaking with Vanguard, the INEC Chief Returning Officer for Akwa-Ibom State, Professor James Epoke expressed the opinion that those who protested and refused to go and vote, made costly mistakes because according to him, results sheets are sensitive materials that ought not be displayed on the table so as not to be destroyed by aggrieved politicians or snatched away by desperate politicians or political thugs.
Ekpo, chairman of the state chapter of the PDP, however, lambasted those who did the protest saying the supremacy of his party in the state ought not be doubted.
By their protest, the chairman said the people had tacitly conceded defeat because numerically, the supporters of the PDP were superior to those of other parties.